The Torah portion for July 16, 2022 is Balak (Numbers 22:2 -25:9). Some of what happens in Balak is familiar: idolatry, divinely-sanctioned death penalties, and a plague. But, did you know that this parshah has a talking female donkey who stands up to abusive behavior? Perhaps not. That talking donkey and the larger story of Balak’s attempt to curse the Israelites raises questions about gender, how we treat animals, choices, free will, violence, courage, and having one’s eyes open to what is really happening around one’s self. All of which is what we will be looking at today.
Balak begins with this story about Balaam. The Moabite king, Balak, wishes to curse the Israelites because he is worried about their size and their impact on the land and its current inhabitants (22:3-4). He sends representatives to bring Balaam, a powerful man whose curses and blessings have tangible effects on their recipients (22:6), to him. Balaam meets with those representatives and tells them to wait; he has to talk to the deity in order to know what to do. The deity commands Balaam to stay put and to not curse the Israelites, for they are blessed (22:12). Indeed, a first in quite a while.Continue reading “Be the Donkey: On Parshah Balak by Ivy Helman.”